tax free weekend guide
For kids, stocking up on school supplies is one of the only joys of going back to school. For parents who have to pay for them, not so much: Americans are expected to spend nearly $600 per child on backpacks, sneakers, calculators, and more this back-to-school season. Texas' tax-free weekend helps ease the burden some.
This year's "sales tax holiday" - when shoppers can save about $8 for every $100 spent on qualifying items - takes place Friday, August 11 through Sunday, August 13 (at midnight). Note that it's a week later than it has been in past years, and after some schools go back to class.
To yield the best bang for your buck, here are nine top tips and essential things to know about tax-free weekend 2023:
What school supplies qualify for the tax exemption?
There is a specific list of school supplies that are tax free during the weekend, but they have to be priced at under $100 (most are, as long as the customer not buying in bulk). The school supplies that qualify for the tax exemption are:
- Blackboard chalk
- Book bags and lunch boxes
- Cellophane tape
- Compasses, protractors, and rulers
- Composition books, legal pads, and notebooks
- Folders – including expandable, pocket, plastic, and manila folders
- Glue, paste, and glue sticks
- Pencils, pencil sharpeners, pens, highlighters, markers, dry erase markers, crayons, and erasers
- Index cards and index card boxes
- Paper – including loose leaf ruled notebook paper, copy paper, graph paper, tracing paper, manila paper, colored paper, construction paper, and poster board
- Pencil boxes and other school supply boxes
- Writing tablets
What about school supply kits? Do they qualify?
There is no limit on the number of school supplies in kits, but certain kits that contain both taxable and tax-free items will have a taxability that depends on the value of the items. According to the Texas Comptroller, if the value of the exempt items is worth more than the taxable items, the kit will be tax free. However, if the value of the taxable items comes out to more than the exempt items, then the kit will be taxed.
What clothing items qualify for the tax-free exemption?
Most footwear and clothing items that are sold for less than $100 are exempt from tax. There is no limit on the number of qualifying items a customer can buy, as long as they ring up for under the $100 price tag. (Sorry, parents of athletes, most sports shoes and gear aren't eligible; see below.)
An example given from the Texas Comptroller's website is that a person shopping in-store can purchase two shirts for $80 each while still qualifying for the exemption despite the total purchase price coming out to $160.
What other items are eligible to be tax-free?
Cloth and disposable fabric face masks (including those which are sold with a filter); student backpacks that are sold for less than $100 (including those with wheels and messenger bags). If a shopper is purchasing more than 10 backpacks tax-free at one time, they will have to present the seller with an exemption certificate.
A full list of qualifying items (and taxable ones) can be found on the Comptroller's website.
What doesn't qualify for the tax-free exemption?
Despite a long list of general footwear and clothing items that fall under the tax-free weekend umbrella, there are certain items that are still taxable, including:
- Specific protective athletic shoes or clothing, such as cleats, shoulder pads, dance shoes, helmets, shin guards, and others
- Industrial or medical grade face masks (such as N95s or others that are primarily used as PPE), and replacement face mask filters
- Clothing subscription boxes
- Clothing or footwear rentals, alterations, embroidery, and cleaning services
- Fabric, thread, zippers, buttons, and other items that are typically used to repair clothing
- Accessories like jewelry, handbags, umbrellas, watches, wallets, and more
- Computers, computer bags, and software
- Baggage items like framed backpacks, luggage, briefcases, purses, and athletic/gym bags
- Any unspecified school supplies that are NOT on the exemption list above
Where can customers shop and save during tax-free weekend?
Purchases can be made in store, as well as online, over the phone, through the mail, and through custom orders. It only matters that the purchase of the item take place between August 11-13.
Does the cost of shipping affect taxability?
Yes it does - the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has deemed a seller's delivery, shipping, handling, and transportation charges as part of an item's sale price if a person is not shopping in-store. An example provided by the Comptroller's website is as follows: "You buy a pair of jeans for $95 with a $10 delivery charge for a total price of $105. Because the jeans’ total price is more than $100, tax is due on the entire $105 price."
What happens if a shopper bought a tax-exempt item during the weekend that was taxed anyway?
The customer would have to request a refund from the seller on the tax paid for the item. The seller can grant the refund to the buyer, or provide them with Form 00-985, Assignment to Right to Refund, which would allow the customer to file a claim for their refund through the Comptroller's website.
Can a customer get a rain check for a qualifying item during the tax-free weekend?
No, any rain check given during the tax-free weekend does not qualify the item for exemption.
More information about tax-free weekend can be found on the Texas Comptroller's website.